Sam Khullar is four comics in one. But unless you also happen to be quadrilingual in English, French, Punjabi, and Hindi, you won’t be able to appreciate all of his stage personas. That’s okay, though, because he’s always Sugar Sammy, no matter what language he’s entertaining in.
When he makes his long-awaited return to the Lower Mainland, as host of the annual Just For Laughs Canadian Comedy Tour, we’ll be entertained by Sugar Sammy 1.0. The original. Sammy started out performing in English in his hometown of Montreal, and English remains his pain et beurre, although the last four years have seen the French side of his career really take off.
“I just kind of tried it out,” he says on the phone from his Montreal home before flying off to Paris for a gig. “I did this one gala set at Juste Pour Rire and the whole province just got behind it, and then all of a sudden I was touring for four years, doing 1,400 seats a night four to six nights a week. It just went crazy.
“I couldn’t walk away from that momentum,” he adds. “I was like, ‘I’m doing something different and special and it feels like the fans are really getting behind it, so let me see this through and see how far I can take it.’ And here we are in 2017, and we’ve been away from each other for seven years.”
Performing all over the world, as he does, he’s learned to tailor his show to the country, becoming the Margaret Mead of standup comedy.
“You have to approach every audience in an anthropological way and say, ‘Okay, who are they? And how can I build a bridge between myself and them? And what can I learn from them and how do I adapt to them onstage?’ You have to have that approach every time.”
In November, he’s heading back to France to take up residency for two months in a 600-seat theatre, doing shows three nights a week.
Whatever the language he’s speaking, Khullar doesn’t lose his cheek. “I like to address the elephant in the room and bring on issues that are taboo sometimes,” he says. “It’s still Sugar Sammy. It’s still standup. I didn’t want to compromise on who I was and how I approached my standup. The only thing I wanted to do was adapt the material culturally—but not the style.”
Sugar Sammy hosts the Just For Laughs Canadian Comedy Tour at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey on Friday (October 13) and at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday (October 14).